I’m reading through the Bible again this year and working hard to pay attention to the BIG story. Genesis has started my year with one narrative after another, most of which any Sunday school child could retell, but my reading will be richer if I can bear in mind that all the little stories are overarched by a “comprehensive explanation or guiding theme that illumines all other themes in a text.”1
The BIG story is all-encompassing. It explains the little stories, connecting them with the theme of God’s creation, humanity’s rebellion, Christ’s redemption, and our ultimate restoration.
God’s heart for people comes through all the stories in large images of his provision and patience. What’s startling to me is that, in an era in which women were viewed as little more than property and baby factories, they very often played leading roles in moving the plot forward.
For example, we call it the “Abrahamic Covenant,” but God went to the trouble of including Sarah‘s name and involvement in his communication with Abraham. Rahab and Ruth, outsiders and of no account according to the strictest adherents to Judaism, were swept up in the surge of a relentless God, bent on redemption. Deborah, Huldah, Abigail, and Esther all stepped boldly into their role in history as well, speaking truth to powerful people and carrying the story forward.
Biblical Women Carried the Story Forward
Mary of Nazareth, her cousin Elisabeth, and Anna the prophetess pick up the story’s thread in the New Testament as each lived her one-of-a-kind journey that put the power of God on display in a humble, faithful life. The woman at the well found, at the end of Jesus’ probing questions, a grace-filled embrace of her need and her longing — and then a new identity as an instrument of change in the lives of many others.
The woman with the hemorrhage had experienced life’s piercing but received the embrace of acceptance and healing when she placed desperate and believing hands upon Jesus’ garment. Used as bait in a moral and theological snare for Jesus, the woman caught in adultery was about to be executed by a cadre of the self-righteous. Jesus turned the tables and skewered her accusers with His succinct interrogation.
Mary and Martha waited on pins and needles for Jesus to heal their dying brother Lazarus. When Jesus showed up, He worked in ways that no one could have predicted, but the lesson reveals that the jolting embrace of a wild and powerful Savior leaves His followers convinced of His presence and His love.
The woman with the alabaster jar pours out her worship with abandon and beauty and yet experiences harsh disapproval. Jesus’ rebuke of the scolds in the room is an embrace to all the beauty lovers, the lavish praise-ers, and the devoted followers who put the glory of God ahead of practical concerns and even their own reputation.
Chosen to know Jesus and to make Him known, Mary Magdalene has been the subject of much speculation through the centuries since her eyewitness experience of the resurrected Christ. Weighted down by sorrow and then embraced by a commission to be Jesus’s apostle to the Apostles, Mary received the privilege of being the first herald of the resurrected Christ.
Women Are Invited to Carry the Story Today
Because He is timeless and immutable, Jesus continues to work in the lives of women, drawing us into conversation, commissioning us to share His message of Truth, and piercing our hearts with the conviction that His words are true and His path worth following.
As I read through all the small stories this year, my goal is to interpret events in light of the central theme, With this in mind, I am challenged to interpret my own circumstances in light of a bigger picture. What presents itself to me minute by minute is rarely my deepest, truest need.
What presents itself to me minute by minute is rarely my deepest, truest need.Tweet
Recognizing that God has complete freedom to do his big-picture plan, may we find grace in this following life to lean into His gentle embrace as we are transformed and empowered for our own beautiful offerings of service and worship.
And so, the real story continues…
One good reason to read through the Bible: Seeing God’s complete freedom to do his big-picture plan, we find grace to lean into His gentle embrace–to be transformed and empowered for our own beautiful offerings of service and worship.Tweet
And Now a Related Resource (and a Give-Away!)…
Susan Shipe caught my attention with a question that ran like a ribbon through her narrative: “What can we learn from Eve?” Or from Ruth and Naomi, from Rahab, from the nameless women of the New Testament whose encounters with the Son of God revealed his character in new ways?
The short answer?
And Women, See Us Soar is a reliable guide to those soaring moments in scripture in which we see God at work, carrying forward his unstoppable plan. Shipe has done most of the work for her readers, providing rich backstories to each biblical character and then bringing her own insights, humor, and hard-won wisdom to the table. In fact, the book has the feel of a big table where we’re invited to gather in honor of each woman’s contribution to our understanding of the heart and character of God.
Susan Shipe has graciously offered to gift one Living Our Days reader with a copy of Women, See Us Soar! If you’d love to dive into a free copy of this rich resource, simply share this post on one of your social media accounts (your choice!), and then comment below to let me know that you’ve done it! I’ll draw one name from all the entries on Wednesday, January 18, and will notify the winner via the account where the post was shared.
Holding you in the Light,
Women, See Us Soar has the feel of a big table where we’re invited to gather in honor of each biblical woman’s contribution to our understanding of the heart and character of God. @SusanShipe7Tweet
- Wilkin, Jen. Women of the Word.
A Free Resource for You…
My first post of 2023 was a collection of blessings to pray over your loved ones at the beginning of the new year. I’ve made them available in printable format for your convenience, so to access your copy, simply click on Download or on the Printer Icon.
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